Though Hans Vonk and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra are unlikely to make anyone's top 10 list of great conductor/orchestra tag teams, they succeeded in producing some of the best Brahms recordings on record. Their 1999 Beethoven First is bright, poised, and propulsive with the unique mixture of wit and warmth typical of the composer in his youth. Their Fourth is dark, weighty, and driven, with all the passionate strength and heroic tragedy of the composer in his late maturity. In both works, the St. Louis Symphony plays with all-American poise and power, plus the balanced colors and blended sonority characteristic of the best European groups, while Vonk, for all his energy and excitement, keeps things focused and directed. Here one gets little sense of the interpreter and an overwhelming sense of the composer. Arch Media Archives' live in concert sound is very, very live: one often hears the various noises from the audience and the occasional groans from the conductor. And whatever one thinks of them, they do enhance the recordings' palpable feeling of time and place.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21|
|Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98|